The Ideal and Stress Free Wedding Day Timeline for Photography

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In order for a wedding to run smoothly, there is a LOT of planning and coordination that goes into it. When it comes to the wedding photography timeline, this is a crucial part of the planning process!

One of the reasons I hear guests say I make it look so easy to “just show up and shoot” at weddings is because I meticulously work on a solid wedding day timeline with my couples well before the event. So, what does this timeline of photography look like, and how do you create one?

How to Determine Your Wedding Photography Timeline

When it comes to creating a wedding photography timeline, each one might have unique factors, but you’ll find there are rough timeline samples you can use to outline your day!

Below, I’ve outlined 2 basic wedding day timeline templates: one with a first look and one without a first look. This specific event can make a pretty big difference to your overall schedule, which is why I think it’s worth showing timeline outlines for both. Additionally, I shared the types of photos captured during that time to give you an idea of what I’m looking for. :)

Timeline With a First Look

If you decide to have a first look, here’s a suggested timeline to follow. In it, you’ll see that because there is a first look, wedding party portraits can all be taken prior to the ceremony, which helps to save time later in the day.

Getting Ready

Photos Include:

  • Bridal Details – shoes, jewelry, dress, rings
  • Portraits and candids of the bride getting ready and putting on her dress
  • Groom Details – cuff links, shoes, watch, tie (2nd shooter will generally photograph the groom while I’m with the bride)
  • Portraits and candids of the groom getting ready and putting on his suit or tux

Time Allotment: 1 hour

First Look and Couple Portraits

Photos Include:

  • First look between the bride and groom
  • Portraits of the couple in 1 main location

Time Allotment: 1 hour

Wedding Party Photos

Photos Include:

  • Wedding party photos
  • Bride + bridesmaid photos
  • Groom + groomsmen photos

Time Allotment: 30 minutes

Ceremony Details

Photos Include:

  • Detail photos of the ceremony site prior to guests arriving

Time Allotment: 20-30 minutes, depending on how elaborate the ceremony site is

Ceremony

Photos Include:

  • Full coverage of the ceremony events

Time Allotment: 15-60 minutes, depending on formality and if it’s religious

Family Formals

Photos Include:

  • Formal portraits with the bride’s family
  • Formal portraits with the groom’s family

Time Allotment: About 30 minutes

Cocktail Hour

Photos Include:

  • Candids and posed group shots of your guests
  • Details of cocktail hour decor

Time Allotment: 30 minutes

Additional Notes: Typically, the 2nd shooter will take cocktail hour photos while I am focusing on family formals.

Couple Portraits

Photos Include:

  • Additional portraits of the bride and groom in 1-2 locations. If you’re looking to go off-site for these photos, be sure to allow an additional 30 minutes for travel. Here are some of my favorite SD engagement locations that also work beautifully for wedding photos!
  • Sunset photos

Time Allotment: 1 hour

Reception Details

Photos Include:

  • Empty venue room photo with completed decor
  • Specific details of each table and unique decor

Time Allotment: 30 minutes

Reception

Photos Include:

  • Grand Entrance
  • First Dance
  • Toasts
  • Special Dances
  • Cake Cutting
  • Bouquet/ Garter Toss
  • Open Dancing

Time Allotment: 3-4 hours

Timeline Without a First Look

The major difference with this timeline is that it does not include a first look. Because of that, not all of the wedding party photos can be taken ahead of time. Additionally, you’ll see that there is less time overall for couple portraits.

Getting Ready

Photos Include:

  • Bridal Details – shoes, jewelry, dress, rings
  • Portraits and candids of the bride getting ready and putting on her dress
  • Groom Details – cuff links, shoes, watch, tie (2nd shooter will generally photograph the groom while I’m with the bride)
  • Portraits and candids of the groom getting ready and putting on his suit or tux

Time Allotment: 1 hour

Bride + Bridesmaid Photos

Photos Include:

  • Bride + bridesmaid photos

Time Allotment: 30 minutes

Groom + Groomsmen Photos

Photos Include:

  • Groom + groomsmen photos

Time Allotment: 30 minutes

Ceremony Details

Photos Include:

  • Detail photos of the ceremony site prior to guests arriving

Time Allotment: 20-30 minutes, depending on how elaborate the ceremony site is

Ceremony

Photos Include:

  • Full coverage of the ceremony events

Time Allotment: 15-60 minutes, depending on formality and if it’s religious

Family Formals

Photos Include:

  • Formal portraits with the bride’s family
  • Formal portraits with the groom’s family

Time Allotment: About 30 minutes

Wedding Party Formals

Photos Include:

  • Entire wedding party with the bride and groom

Time Allotment: 15 minutes

Cocktail Hour

Photos Include:

  • Candids and posed group shots of your guests
  • Details of cocktail hour decor

Time Allotment: 30 minutes

Additional Notes: Typically, the 2nd shooter captures photos of cocktail hour while I focus on family formals.

Couple Portraits

Photos Include:

  • Additional portraits of the bride and groom in 1-2 locations
  • Bridal portraits
  • Groom portraits
  • Sunset photos

Time Allotment: 1 hour

Reception Details

Photos Include:

  • Empty venue room photo with completed decor
  • Specific details of each table and unique decor

Time Allotment: 30 minutes

Reception

Photos Include:

  • Grand Entrance
  • First Dance
  • Toasts
  • Special Dances
  • Cake Cutting
  • Bouquet/ Garter Toss
  • Open Dancing

Time Allotment: 3-4 hours

Final Thoughts

When it comes to planning out your wedding photography timeline, first determine whether or not you want a first look. Even if you’re not entirely sure how much time to allot to each different event, that’s okay, because that’s where I come in and can help you build it fully out!

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